The Philly Shell defense, also known as the Hitman or Crab style defense, is a style of defense used by boxers
to capitalize on counter
opportunities. This style of defense was first popularized by Thomas "The Hitman" Hearns
, who specialized in this defensive style and had an unique "flicker" jab. Current notable practitioners of this style include Floyd "Pretty Boy" Mayweather
and James "Lights Out" Toney
The Philly Shell defense is an unorthodox defense requiring deft movements and quick reflexes, as the main distinguishing aspect of the defense lies in its use of the shoulder roll. The defense is also recognized by its unique placement of the boxer's hands, rather than keeping both hands up near the head, his or her lead hand is placed horizontal across the torso, and the back elbow resting on top of the lead fist, forming a L shape.
To an untrained eye, this defense may seem to leave a large number of holes, most notably the front of the head. This however is merely a false appearance, as a practitioner of the Philly Shell can merely roll off punches toward the head and slip in body hook counter or an uppercut to the solar plexus. For example if there were two right-handed fighters, if fighter A throws a right cross toward fighter B, fighter B in the Philly Shell simply keeps his chin tucked to his shoulder and rolls it toward his left. This leaves his back hand ready to counter fighter A's exposed right side.
In the case of a jab, fighter B wants his back hand to parry the jab while leaning forward or twisting square to his opponent to allow for a quicker counter opportunity. A hook is easily block in this style because the back hand is always up protecting the head. Body shots are likewise protected by the lead hand.
Perhaps the easiest punch to slip through the Philly Shell defense is the uppercut, it forces the practitioner to move his back hand away from his head and down toward the punch to parry or block it, thus exposing the head for a chance hook or haymaker.
As described by the twisting and movement of the defense, the Philly Shell requires a boxer to have move quickness and upper body agility to get to the angles to counter and to roll and block combinations that the opponent throws.